Tag Archives: doctrine

Defining ‘Essential’ Doctrine in the Church – The Big Three

I created a bit of confusion with my previous post. 

The list of “non-negotiables” shared there is not totally made up of things I consider “test of fellowship” issues – those are mostly doctrines I believe in strongly and will defend strongly.

But there are some doctrines that should cause us to draw a line in the sand – doctrines that should determine whether we fellowship others or not, and by “fellowship”, I mean accept them as a brother or sister in Christ.

From my study of the Scriptures, these “Big Three” are it:

  1. Belief in God.
  2. Belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
  3. Submission and commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Master.

These are salvation issues, and when heresies cropped up in the New Testament, these were doctrines those heresies distorted or contradicted.

I was raised within a faith tradition that taught if you go to a different kind of church you are probably doomed to hell,  if you don’t understanding certain things at the moment of your baptism you are probably doomed to hell, if you don’t worship a certain way you are probably doomed to hell, and if you neglect to organize your church a certain way you are probably doomed  to hell.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my faith tradition and will never leave it – but I’ve dwelled in the scriptures for a few years now and do not believe I should have ever been taught those things.

So many of the things our tradition has made fellowship issues over the years are every bit as ridiculous as anything in that video I showed the other day, because they are extrapolations from scripture – not clear commands.

I really appreciate what Monte Cox said a few years ago at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures: “I’m not comfortable drawing lines in the sand where God has not clearly drawn them – I’m too conservative for that.”

I’m with Monte – I’m just not willing to draw lines where God hasn’t clearly done so Himself.

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Defining ‘Essential’ Doctrine in the Church – A List For You to Pick At

Tyler Ellis made a great point (as usual) in his comment under the previous post.

He said:

It concerns me any time someone makes a requirement of fellowship what God has not made a requirement of salvation.

There’s great wisdom in thinking this way.

Obviously there are doctrines we as church leaders must see and teach as ‘essential’. Many of the New Testament letters were written specifically to refute heresies that cropped up in the early church – most related to false teachers licensing early Christians to live in sin or teachings that distorted the identity of Jesus.

Jude urged readers to “contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) – something he obviously took very seriously.

Get this: we should take it seriously too!

But what we shouldn’t do is place extrapolated teachings related to a specific faith tradition on the same level as clear, specific commands, prohibitions, and realities found in Scripture.

After thinking a bit, I thought it might be healthy to write down my own list of non-negotiables.

These are not necessarily tests of fellowship in my mind (some of them are), but they are doctrines I believe worthy of defense:

  • The existence and sovereignty of a loving, benevolent, compassionate  creator God, who all may access through prayer.
  • The man Jesus Christ is the divine, revealed Son of God, who is enthroned in heaven as both Lord and King of all, and who will one day return.
  • The reality of the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit given to all believers.
  • The reality of heaven, hell, and eternity.
  • The Scriptures, given to us by God , are to be used in correcting, teaching, rebuking, and training in righteousness.
  • The greatest commands are to 1) love God with everything you have, and 2) love your neighbor as yourself.
  • The church is the visible manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom on earth (to be fully realized when Jesus returns), every follower of Christ is apart of it, and every follower of Christ is called to work within it.
  • Jesus calls all to repent of sin and follow Him while continuing to live a repentant life, promising forgiveness of sin and salvation to all who do so.
  • Believer’s baptism is the biblical method prescribed for committing one’s life to Christ and is linked to the forgiveness of sin and gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • One day all who have ever lived will be raised to stand before God to be judged.
  • Salvation and forgiveness of sin is found in Jesus alone, by His grace, not by our goodness. We are saved by His death, and made alive through the power of His resurrection.
  • Lastly and ironically, one does not need to understand everything perfectly about God to be 1) loved by Him, 2) cleansed by Him, and 3) saved by Him. Ultimately, it’s all up to Him, and He’s a much better judge than I am. Infinitely more loving too.

It could very well be I’m leaving something out, but from where I sit right now everything else I can think of – doctrinally, organizationally, or otherwise –  is up for grabs.

As another commenter stated in the previous thread, “One man’s state is another man’s national” (watch the video in the previous post if you don’t understand that statement), so you may very will disagree with what’s written here, but I believe church leaders have a responsibility to teach and to defend these things … but here’s the problem. You’ll need to date this list, because in a few years it may look different for me.

What about you – do you have your own non-negotiables? What’s on your list?

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Defining ‘Essential’ Doctrine in the Church

I like this analogy:


… but also believe it overly simplistic to assume every doctrinal issue within the church can easily be categorized essential/non-essential.

What do you think about this concept? What do you think about the list they share in the video … would you add or take away anything?

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